1 Ne 10:1-22

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Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 10-15 > Chapter 10
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Summary[edit]

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Relationship to Chapters 10-15. The relationship of Chapter 10 to the rest of Chapters 10-15 is addressed at First Nephi 10-15.

Story. Chapter 10 consists of three major sections:

  • Verses 10:1-10: Jews will return from Babylon, Christ's ministry at Jerusalem
  • Verses 10:11-16: Jews will then be scattered and in last days be gathered
  • Verses 10:17-22: Nephi desires to know for himself, those who seek shall find, the wicked shall suffer judgment

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 10-15 include:

Discussion[edit]

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1 Ne 10:1-10: Jews will return from Babylon, Christ's ministry at Jerusalem[edit]

  • 1 Ne 10:1: Proceedings. In 1 Ne 19:2 the word proceedings is used in describing the "proceedings in the wilderness" of Lehi, Nephi and his brethren. Here, since Nephi does not seem to describe his "reign and ministry" until 2 Ne 6, it may be that the proceedings he is referring to are those times in the wilderness including the vision commencing in 1 Ne 11:1 which occurred in the wilderness.
  • 1 Ne 10:1: Must speak somewhat. One reason that Nephi must speak "of the things of my father, and also of my brethren" may be to set the stage for the vision in the wilderness that he has regarding the Jews and Gentiles (chapters 11-15).
Of interest also, then, is the fact that Nephi's first name for the Son here is "a prophet." What this means remains to be explored. This is a prophecy of the ministry of John the Baptist. This is a prophecy of the baptism of Christ.
  • 1 Ne 10:1. The summarized words of Lehi as recorded in this chapter are of the utmost importance for the interpretation of the rest of the Book of Mormon. This chapter marks the first mention of the Gentiles in the Book of Mormon, and it also marks the first discussion of the interrelation of the Jews and Israel. In fact, it is the first--as well as the simplest, the most straightforward--explanation of the eventual covenantal interplay of the Jews, the Gentiles, and Israel. Since this topic becomes, one could argue, the most important theme of the whole of the Book of Mormon (see, at least, the title page of the Book of Mormon on this), this first setting of the stage for all subsequent discussion is of undeniable importance. It is, in fact, this first verse of this chapter that first highlights the importance of this theme for Nephi. The verse opens quite clearly as a marker of a major transition in the record. Noel Reynolds finds evidence of a very broad structuring of the whole of First Nephi that supports this moment of transition (he argues that 1 Nephi 1-9 form a broad twelve-step pattern that is perfectly parallel to 1 Nephi 10-22, thus making First Nephi one gigantic parallelism that splits right at this verse; see Table 1 in his work cited below). As this verse makes clear, the transition in question at this point in the record is one Nephi had promised as early as 1 Ne 1:17: "Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life." In short, Nephi is in the process here, at last, of transitioning to his own "reign and ministry."
But the wording of this first verse complicates the transition somewhat. Nephi's "reign and ministry" does not enter into the record in chapter 11, right after these brief comments on Lehi's teachings. Rather, any real discussion of his "reign and ministry" is not to be found until at least 2 Ne 5:5, or even (as seems to be a stricter reading) 2 Ne 6:1. In other words, if this first verse marks the beginning of a transition, it must be admitted that the transition stretches for eighteen chapters! This would, interestingly, accord well with what Nephi says in 1 Ne 19:5: he explains there that only after his account of the physical production of the small plates (an account to be found in the very last verses of 2 Ne 5 would he "proceed according to that which I have spoken," namely, to record "the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them" (this clarification comes from 1 Ne 19:3). In short, it seems the best reading of this first verse is to take it as the marker of an eighteen-chapter transition from Nephi's abridgment of Lehi's record to the beginning of his fulfilling the commandment to record the ministry and prophecies (which begin, ostensibly, in 2 Ne 6.
What all of these broad details suggest for this first verse here, however, still remains to be worked out. Ultimately, all of this suggests that what this first verse is saying is this: what begins to become a major question right here in chapter 10 is a first working out of what will be the underlying theme of 2 Nephi 6-33. What, of course, is in question in chapter 10 is the interplay of the Jews, the Gentiles, and Israel, and this same question underlies the visions that follow in chapters 11-15, as well as in the Isaiah quotations of 1 Nephi 20-22, and as well as in Lehi's final discourses in 2 Nephi 1-4. All in all, this verse warns the reader that the real topic Nephi is going to take up most emphatically is about to be discussed in a preliminary way. That he "must speak somewhat" of Lehi and of his brethren in connection with it is interesting: the significance of these eventual historical events, these covenantal workings out--at least for Nephi--is to be found in what it has to do with Lehi and his sons. In other words, the Abrahamic covenant is important for Nephi precisely because of what it will do for the Lehites: the Abrahamic covenant is "relativized" ("likened"?) here, just as it is on the title page of the Book of Mormon.
  • 1 Ne 10:2. In order to transition back to his brothers and father, Nephi resets the context and draws his readers right back to the very event he had just left: Lehi's report of the dream. That Nephi makes such a to-do right in the middle of that most important event is rather curious, and the very disruption deserves some attention, since it suggests that Nephi moves from simple abridgment to a sort of historical transition right in the middle of that event. But this is too vague. As this verse makes clear, Lehi comes to the conclusion "of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting them to all diligence," and he goes on to speak of another subject, quite specifically, "concerning the Jews." In other words, though Nephi returns to the very same event--though the disruption certainly disrupts a single event--he splits the event into two great parts, two halves, and he seems to locate the shift from abridgment to transition right in the middle of the event: Lehi's subject in chapter 8 should be understood to be a part of Lehi's record, but the subject in chapter 10 must be understood to be otherwise, in fact, a part of Nephi's transition from Lehi's record to his own subject matter. In short, the transition opens with this business of "the Jews," precisely where the vision of the tree of life leaves off.
Something of major importance for a structural reading of Nephi's two books emerges here. Chapter 8, taken up as it is with Lehi's own family, with his descendants, and hence, with his (the "Lehitic") covenant, confirms quite explicitly the concern of Lehi's record and hence of Nephi's abridgment of the same: the covenant that grounds the Lehites (Nephites and Lamanites considered together). That chapter 10 broadens these sorts of questions is of vital importance: here, it is a question of the Jews, and within a few verses, it becomes also a question of the Gentiles and of Israel. The transition Nephi is making, beginning with this chapter, is a transition from questions of the Lehites to questions of all Israel and their interrelations with the Gentiles. Put more strictly: the transition Nephi is working out here is a transition from the "Lehitic" covenant to the Abrahamic covenant. This transition, marking a curious relation between two major covenants (two major covenant peoples), begins to lay the foundation for a most fascinating double record: Nephi's two books are a masterpiece of intertwined themes, the two most important of which themes are the Lehitic and Abrahamic covenants.
Perhaps worth mentioning before proceeding on, then, to the first real discussion of the Abrahamic covenant, is the fact that Nephi (cited Lehi) centers this question first and foremost in "the Jews." Whatever part Israel and the Gentiles will play, the very possibility of the Abrahamic covenant begins with the Jews and the events described concerning them in the next few verses.
  • 1 Ne 10:3. This verse does not report anything earth-shattering about the Jews, only some historical facts that just about any serious reader of the Book of Mormon already knows. Of course, it is significant that Lehi is stating all of this before it happens (a few years before the one event, a few decades before the other). Read closely, the verse is focused on the return, but this could not have been too overwhelming an insight for Lehi: if "Second Isaiah" had indeed been written at the time, as the Book of Mormon seems quite clearly to conclude, then the idea would have been familiar to any reader of the scriptures (Isaiah does not exactly bury this prophecy in a mystery). In short, Lehi just begins to lay out the next few decades of Jewish history, as Isaiah writes it out in his writings. But there are a few curiosities about the phrasing of this verse that should draw the attention and that call for comment: there is more at work here than a simple prediction of events in Jewish history.
Last things first, the next verse makes quite clear that Lehi is not looking to the return from exile as the celebrated event of his prophetic word, but rather the coming of the Messiah. In fact, the wording, as it spreads across these two verses together, suggests that Lehi is unaware for the most part of when the return will be accomplished. The "Yea, even" that opens verse 4 seems quite clearly to suggest that Lehi understood the return from exile to have something to do with the arrival of the Messiah (perhaps not quite unlike the understanding so often--whether or not justifiably--attributed to the Jews: that of a Messiah who would come specifically to lead to a restoration of the land). In other words, Lehi's prophecy is rather uncertain temporally: it may be that he believes the Jews will return to the land of Israel only after six hundred years. At any rate, it is clear that the return itself is focused on the coming of the Messiah, rather than on the building of the second temple, the purification of Judea, etc.
All of this points to some consideration of the final phrase of verse 3: the return from captivity is a question of "possess[ing] again the land of their inheritance." From the very beginning, the Abrahamic covenant is brought to bear on this question. The return--clearly associated with the Messiah--is a question of fulfilling the ancient covenant. Lehi's picture, with this detail, grows rather complicated, and some confusions must be clarified.
  • 1 Ne 10:4. As pointed out above, the "Yea, even" of this verse seems to suggest that Lehi understands the events of verses 3 and 4 to be a single event (though the reader of the Book of Mormon inevitably understands them to be two separate events, the return from exile in the sixth century B.C. and the birth of Christ some five centuries or so later). The point is vastly important, as becomes clear when one takes the Christology of the Book of Mormon into account as well. There is, to this point in the Book of Mormon, only a single reference to the Messiah (in 1 Ne 1:19). That is, Nephi never mentions the Son, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, etc., etc., etc., except for that single verse in his first chapter (where the reference suggests nothing out of the ordinary for seventh or sixth century B.C. Israelite thought). Here, however, when the event of the Messiah's coming is unfolded in Lehi's discourse, Nephi suddenly employs almost every Book of Mormon name for the Son: "Messiah" and "Savior" in this verse, "Redeemer" in the next," "Lamb of God" in verse 10, and "the Son of God" in verse 17. Curiously, the Christology of the Book of Mormon emerges quite suddenly in this single prophetic discourse. But perhaps this is no surprise: the entire theology of the Abrahamic covenant in the Book of Mormon emerges quite suddenly in the course of the same discourse. In the end, the two are so profoundly intertwined in this discourse that one must recognize in Nephite theology the central interrelation between the Abrahamic covenant and the Christ.

1 Ne 10:11-16: Jews will then be scattered and in last days be gathered[edit]

  • 1 Ne 10:11. This verse marks the first use of the word "Gentile" in the Book of Mormon, and it, like 1 Ne 1:2 with the Jews and 1 Ne 5:9 with Israel, should be taken as the point of departure for all consideration of the meaning of the term throughout the Book of Mormon. Perhaps this text (verses 11-15) is, in the end, the source for considering for the first time comprehensively the relation of the Gentiles and Israel. Significantly, the preceding passage (verses 2-10) also takes up the third term of interest here: the Jews. In other words, from verse 2 all the way through verse 15 here, Nephi lays out what must be understood as the first systematic working out of the interrelations of the Jews, the Gentiles, and Israel. Any subsequent discussion of this point is related quite closely to this chapter.
Perhaps the real point of departure, however, is the question of a vision of two trees.
Also making its first appearance in this verse is the title "Holy Ghost." Though the "Spirit" and even the "Holy Spirit" appear in Nephi's text before this point, the exact title of "Holy Ghost" does not occur until here. It is likely quite significant that the Holy Ghost only comes into question with this business of the Jews and the Gentiles. In fact, it turns out that after Nephi introduces this question of the Holy Ghost here and follows it up a few times in the visions of the history of Israel, the Jews, and the Gentiles, any reference to the "Holy Ghost" as such disappears until 2 Ne 26:13. This gap is certainly significant, especially considering the fact that "Spirit" occurs dozens and dozens of times throughout Nephi's two books ("Holy Spirit" only occurs three times, and in each it might well be written "holy Spirit," with "holy" as a qualifier rather than as part of a title, as in "Holy Ghost").
At the very least, all of this seems to suggest that the Holy Ghost should be understood in a very specific role, as something that only has to do with the intertwining dealings of the Jews, the Gentiles, and Israel more broadly. In other words, the Holy Ghost, as Holy Ghost, might be something that only emerges with the question of the Abrahamic covenant. There is certainly something of a hint of this idea in 3 Nephi as well (one should note that "Holy Ghost" only occurs eight times between the Book of Jacob and the teachings of Jesus in 3 Nephi... and all eight references are quotations from or discussions of Alma the Younger, whose connection with the small plates is undeniable). Whatever these facts suggest, they at least point to the possibility of reading the emergence of a strict "Trinity" only with the full weight of the Abrahamic covenant. What this means remains, obviously, to be worked out at length.
  • 1 Ne 10:14. Sometimes the house of Israel is used to include anyone who has joined the church. In this context though there seems to be a distinction between the Gentiles that receive the fulness of the Gospel and the remnants of the house of Israel. Presumably then the house of Israel in this case refers to the literal descendants of Israel.
  • 1 Ne 10:16. This verse seems to mark a transition, as promised in verse 1, from talking about "the things of my father, and also of my brethren" to continuing his narrative of "proceedings" in the wilderness.
  • 1 Ne 10:16: Lehi dwelt in a tent. See the discussion at 1 Ne 2:15 regarding the phrase "My father dwelt in a tent".

1 Ne 10:17-22: Nephi desires to know for himself, those who seek shall find, the wicked shall suffer judgment[edit]

  • 1 Ne 10:17. Nephi says that he wants to see, hear and know of the things that his Father had seen in a vision. The next phrase "by the power of the Holy Ghost" suggests that Nephi desires that through the power of the Holy Ghost he will see, hear and know what his Father saw and heard.
  • 1 Ne 10:19: Mysteries of God. In this verse Nephi says the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto those who diligently seek them. When referring to the mysteries of God, the verb unfolded is often used. See Jacob 4:18, Mosiah 8:19, Alma 40:3, and D&C 10:64.
While we don't know exactly what word is being translated here as "mysteries", in the New Testament the English word "mystery" is a translation of the Greek noun musterion, which originally meant the secret teachings and religious rites of ancient religious orders--such as the Orphic mysteries.
One way to interpret the "mysteries of God" in the scriptures is read them as a reference to temple ordinances.
  • 1 Ne 10:19. The Book of Mormon often uses the phrase "power of the Holy Ghost" to speak of something apparently beyond what Latter-day Saints generally call "feeling the Spirit" or even "learning by the Spirit." (A most important such example would be Moro 10:3-5, which contextually goes on to speak of the several gifts of the Spirit, revelation, translation, etc.) That Nephi here speaks of the power of the Holy Ghost in such an exalted situation emphasizes this same point: Nephi understands the experience of the Holy Ghost to be an experience of full-blown revelation, to come to know the "mysteries of God" (understood in whatever sense) as those "of old" and as those "in times to come" (even at the Second Coming?). If, indeed, "the course of the Lord is one eternal round," Nephi seems to be suggesting that the Holy Ghost brings upon one the most exalted and magnificent revelations, perhaps even the revelation of the Son of God.
We cannot passively await for the delivery of knowledge by the Holy Ghost. The Lord says he that we must go looking for it. Half-hearted attempts will not be rewarded. The point is to hunger and thirst after this revelation. It is our passion and pursuit that will qualify us for the mysteries.
  • 1 Ne 10:20. Perhaps it is only based on the foregoing remarks that verse 20 can be seen to fit into this passage: because of the exalted character of revelation through the Holy Ghost, because that possibility remains entirely open to all those who would seek the same revelations of the prophets of old, judgment is just and to be constantly kept in mind.

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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  • 1 Ne 10:1: If Nephi said his smaller plates record "the ministry of my people" (1 Ne 9:3) and his larger plates record "the reign of the kings" (1 Ne 9:4), then why is he saying in this verse that the particular plates he is writing in at that moment (i.e., his smaller plates) contain an account of both "my reign and ministry"?
  • 1 Ne 10:2: Did Lehi switch to talking about the Jews after discussing his dream because the history of the Jews he was about to relate represented a partial interpretation of the dream?
  • 1 Ne 10:3: Why is the "due time" of the Lord not mentioned in the Old Testament?
  • 1 Ne 10:4: Is Christ first called a prophet in this abbreviated history of the Jews because for the first three decades of his life that was all the Jews knew him as?
  • 1 Ne 10:5: Is Lehi saying the previous prophets agreed with him or that he agreed with his predecessors?
  • 1 Ne 10:6: Why does Lehi use the word "lost" in this verse if it means something cannot be found, recovered, or regained?
  • 1 Ne 10:6: Who lost us and how will we be found?
  • 1 Ne 10:7: How long had the Jews lived without a prophet before the arrival of this one?
  • 1 Ne 10:8: Why will John the Baptist come before Christ?
  • 1 Ne 10:11: Did Nephi immediately assimilate new terms, like "Holy Ghost," from his father's vocabulary or did he pick them up in later years, as he became more acquainted with the language of the brass plates?
  • 1 Ne 10:12: If Lehi was comparing only the "house of Israel" to an "olive tree," then why did he say "they" rather than "it"?
  • 1 Ne 10:13: What does it mean to be "led with one accord"?
  • 1 Ne 10:14: Did Nephi decide to summarize ("in fine," which means "in short") because he wanted to focus on the gathering rather than the scattering?
  • 1 Ne 10:15: Why is Nephi the only prophet who talks about the "manner of language"?
  • 1 Ne 10:16: Weren't the prophecies and recording of them upon plates still left undone?
  • 1 Ne 10:17: Was Nephi so specific about the multiple ways he wanted to experience revelation because he was influenced by Dan 5:23?
  • 1 Ne 10:18: Why is the word "today" (and its alternative spelling in this verse, "to-day") not used in the Bible?
  • 1 Ne 10:19: How could the Holy Ghost have revealed truth to people at all points during human history if the Gift of the Holy Ghost was not available during Christ's ministry?

Resources[edit]

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  • Entire book. See Noel Reynolds' article "Nephi's Outline" on pages 53-74 in Book of Mormon Authorship, published by FARMS and edited by Noel Reynolds ([ISBN 0934893187]). The table mentioned in the exegesis above is found on page 58.
  • 1 Ne 10:19: One eternal round. See "Taking Joseph's Ring Analogy Seriously" by Geoff J. at the New Cool Thang blog for some quotes by Joseph Smith on existence being like a ring. Whether or not the ring analogy is useful for thinking about this phrase, "one eternal round" is debatable, but it does seem like one way to think about this phrase.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



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